My iGate has been running for almost two years now. Other than a tiny bit of electricity, there are no re-occurring cost and a tiny bit of attention once in a while. My iGate fills a substantial void along the eastern seaboard - it's on track for transferring 18,000 messages to the Internet this month!
While its not a critical component of my RV-8 flying, I like having it on board and my family likes being able to see where my plane is. I also like "checking up" on friends who fly more than me ... vicarious aviation. Parents with kids who are new drivers - or will be soon - might want to consider adding trackers to their cars too
I'd like to help others who are willing to stand up an iGate. You need an amateur radio license, but thats not a difficut written test to pass and the same licence covers your tracker. If you check you local area and find there is no iGate in your area then you are a good candidate. If there is no iGate at your airport and the FBO has WiFi, then you are a good candidate (although you may need to check airport rules about the antenna). Alternately, you can set one up at home.
Here is the real world cost of equipment:
- a 2-meter receiver (eBay has several hand held HAM radios for $50-75)
- a permanent antenna (a new copper j-pole is about $45)
- antenna feed cable (50ft of coax with connectors is about $25)
- a computer with a sound card / mic input (an OLPC XO is about $50-$75 on eBay, a Raspberry PI setup can be put together for about the same)
- an audio cable and probably a data cable or two (likely less than $10)
- misc mounting hardware will be another $10-$20
The total $190-$250 but $225 is likely the mean cost.
The installation of the antenna is just a matter of finding a location for the antenna and running the feed line coax from the antenna to wherever the computer and radio will be. There's not much I can do here unless you are within RV distance.
Before I forget - you will need access to an internet connection too. I use low power laptops which can support WiFi or wired network. This provides a few more options for locating the iGate.
What's not included here is the cost of "elevation". If you are trying to cover a large area with your iGate, you need you antenna to be able to have a better "view" of the area. If your area is relatively flat, then you don't need much elevation but if you are in a low spot, getting some elevation will help but also cost. The simplest option is to mount the external antenna at the peak of a roof - either on top of the peak or close to the peak on the end of a building. You can see my installation
is on the end of my hangar sticking above the peak. The ultimate solution is a tower but that is costly and also will increase the length of the coax feed line which in turn dictates using higher quality / higher cost material.
Tracking down the parts is pretty easy too. I'm happy to share my sources (but everything I bought came from Amazon, eBay, and my local HW store so it's mostly a personal choice)
For most, the challenge is getting the computer software installed, configured, connected to the radio, and all tuned up. Here is where I hope to help.
I'm happy to setup, configure and tune up the computer and radio and help train you with operating your iGate.
I realize this is not for everyone. But, if you are game, so am I. Even if this only nets a couple new iGates, if it fills in some voids across the country or across the globe, it will be a fun project.